With 140 characters, Twitter may seem limited in what it can do, but that isn't always the case.
Over the past few years, members have turned the brief exchanges into organized conversations -- be they one time, weekly or monthly Twitter chats like CMSWire's own monthly Tweet Jams.
A number of tools have emerged to help users follow the conversation, including TweetChat, Twubs, Nestivity, HootSuite and TweetDeck.
All About Hashtags: TweetChat and Twubs
As a network with a constant stream of updates and posts, Twitter is often hard to navigate. One of the network's most useful post categorization tools, which other social sites have since adopted such as Facebook and Instagram, is the hashtag. While followers could type in a hashtag in the Twitter search bar to find any and all relevant posts, there are two tools -- TweetChat and Twubs -- that aim to make this a more efficient experience.
TweetChat allows users to follow posts tagged with a particular hashtag within a chatroom-like setting. These posts are then streamed together in a conversation format that updates in real-time so the searcher can see who made a comment, when it was made and who it was directed to. Users can also pause the feed and restart it at a later time and reply to or retweet what someone else is saying. To help improve the chat experience moderators can use the user control option to remove spammers or to highlight certain tweeters.
A TweetChat on digital marketing
Twubs also centers around the hashtag, but unlike TweetChat, organizes topics into a homepage-like setting. To find a registered Twubs chat, a person can search the hashtag or browse a list of categories, click on relevant subcategories and find the topic they want to tweet about or monitor. Main categories include event, organization and topic, a list that can be further narrowed by sub categories such as company or brand and product name.
A Twubs homepage on CXM
On each Twubs page, users can find information about the chat, join the page as a member or contributor and list relevant links, such as a company homepage. Twubs allows hosts to separate their tweets from the rest of the conversation so they're easier to follow. Chats can be scheduled, which in addition to being promoted internally on the Twubs page, helps organizers promote the event on their social channels.
Create a Community with Nestivity
While Twubs and TweetChat monitor conversations and posts through hashtags, Nestivity wants to turn chats into more of an integrated community. As with the other tools, each chat gets its own page which has a brief description of the organization or topics that are being discussed. For example, on the Nestivity page, the company asks users to chat about Nestivity related support, tips and tricks and frequently asked questions.
The Nestivity community page
From there users can share an experience, post an idea or ask a question. All of these posts are then directed toward the page owner’s Twitter profile. Users can also have a list of trending topics that might be of interest to community members and separate tweets into those directed toward the page owner and all tweets within the community.
Nestivity pages also have a "Community Project Highlights" section which shows recent activity from community members such as tweetcasts and forum feedback.
All Around Management: HootSuite and TweetDeck
Both TweetDeck, which is owned by Twitter and HootSuite have some similarities in their design in that they are organized in a column, dashboard format, but after that, they diverge.
TweetDeck, which as of May dropped the ability to manage Facebook, starts off with four default columns: timeline, interactions, activity and messages. To add a column a user has to search a person’s username, a hashtag or a topic, select a suggestion from the results list and click "add column." Users can also organize people into a list which is then transferred into a column on the dashboard.
TweetDeck users can also schedule tweets, upload photos and receive notifications about new posts.
A look at a Tweetdeck feed
HootSuite -- who just finished a US$ 150 million funding round -- is less centered on just Twitter and more on social media in general as users can also monitor, schedule and create analytics reports on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ feeds, among others. Its Twitter specific features -- some of which are the same as TweetDeck's -- include the ability to schedule tweets, upload photos.
HootSuite users can organize lists, keyword or hashtag trends into what is referred to as a "tracking stream" and have separate streams for Mentions, Direct Messages, Sent Tweets and Favorited Tweets. For people intent on finding a tool primarily for Twitter conversations HootSuite's functionality may be more than they want or need.
An example of HootSuite on the iPad
An Interactive Calendar: The Chat Diary
The last Twitter chat tool on the list is The Chat Diary -- a free chat notification and search tool. With The Chat Diary users looking for a particular chat or curious to see scheduled chats can search by keyword in a search bar or choose a topic from a drop down menu of categories. The site currently lists over 900 chats, some found by The Chat Diary team, others submitted by users. By following the Chat Diary on Twitter (@TheChatDiary), users can find out what chats are taking place that day.
Users who submit their chats to the site receive a dedicated url for the hashtag, which can be used to post topics or updates of upcoming chats, pose questions to participants and further engage their audience. The Chat Diary -- which is based in England -- leans heavily towards British focused chats and does not have a strong representation of business chats, but the alert system is an interesting idea.